The origin of the Old World brevirostrine gomphotheriid taxon Sinomastodon has been debated intensively. The discovery of the oldest known Sinomastodon cranium, reported herein, supports its endemic origin and contradicts the prevalent theory of its North America origin. The new cranium was discovered from the Shuitangba locality, southwestern China, and is dated at about 6.5–6.0 Ma, corresponding to the latest Miocene. The new specimen shows distinct characters from the other species of Sinomastodon and was therefore named Sinomastodon praeintermedius, sp. nov. Newly discovered, isolated Sinomastodon-like teeth from the upper Miocene to the lower Pleistocene of southwestern China and Southeast Asia indicate a long evolution of Sinomastodon endemically. Remains of this species are frequently accompanied by those of stegodontid species. These two groups may have had a similar migration route, invading northern China and Japan during the latest Miocene, and retreating or becoming extinct from the Palearctic realm by the end of the Pliocene. The migrations of proboscideans may have been sparked by major paleoenviromental changes, i.e., the strengthened summer monsoon beginning in the late Miocene (~7–8 Ma) and global cooling due to the expansion of ice sheets from the middle Pliocene to the early Pleistocene. The new finding reveals a close relationship of the early Pliocene fauna of northern China and the latest Miocene fauna of southwestern China, and thus provides novel insight into the origin and components of Pliocene fauna in northern China.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics